Rachmaninov's Ave Maria
  • A puzzle here that I'm hoping someone can help me with. We usually sing public domain material because I don't want to fiddle with all that copyright nonsense.

    We have an edition of Rach's Ave Maria that I'm not entirely sure of its status. There are no markings on it. A choir member just Finaled it--just on his own initiative--so now it is a beautiful edition, prepared in the manner in which we've come to sing it. I have it in PDF, and I would like to distribute it. But something tells me that there could be trouble here. This piece is not on CPDL, and googling around tells me that there are copyright issues with Rach's work. Some is available and some is not.

    So CPDL has 8 or so pieces up, none from the Vespers, which suggests to me that there is a problem. But how can I know? It is not listed in the public copyright records. I would love to make it available but I don't want to expose our schola to some weird liability issue. I'm also fully aware that by posting this note, I've already made myself a "suspect" should this piece turn up on some anon. server somewhere. Then again, I might be worried about nothing.

    Does anyone have an insight here?
  • Yes, Jeffrey, I know there is a specific arranger/major publisher's retrofit of "Ave Maria" to the Boghoroditze (if that's the Rachmaninov you're meaning.) Sang it in grad school (and in '88 in St. Isaac's in St. Petersburg, where we got booted out by the commies for doing so.) That's the rub about CPDL; someone in the throes of zeal or self-delusion believes that by transcribing something extent and making even the slightest alteration, say adding a tenuto marking, amounts to a licit "arrangement" or edition. Again, caveat emptor.
    By the way, I got through your interview with Prof. Pickstock- wow, excellent. Now onto her article about Messiaen.
  • So that makes me wonder. Is it altered enough to constitute a new edition to distribute for free? Is the composition under copyright or only arrangements? I have years of experience in dealing with copyright issues, and I think I know a lot about what's what, but this one has me stumped.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    In these matters, I always err on the side of conservative. But there is wiggle room. As long as you're making a good faith effort to honor the copyright, you're doing better than alot of folks who just do as they please and hope they don't get caught, or assume they won't.

    If there's any doubt at all that someone somewhere has copyright, and I'm about to infringe it, I'll purchase the real thing, even if I don't agree with the editor's contributions. I can always have the choir put in whatever interpretive corrections I want to make right into the score.

    On the other hand, at the risk of stating what may be obvious, there are several catalogues that list music in print that can be consulted at any reputable music library. It's a good place to start at any rate. If it appears as though what you're looking for is no longer in print, you can contact the last known publisher and find out what the copyright date was. I'm not sure what the guidelines are, but I believe for print music copyright lives for 70 years. If 70 years are past, and you're not able to find any indication that it's been renewed or an edition is commercially available in print, I'd be comfortable firing up the ol' Xerox (tm) and fill up the library.

    (Disclaimer: I am not an attorney, and the above is not legal advice.)
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749

    As I understand the position in the US, anything published before 1923 is in the public domain. I don't know when the vespers were originally published, but they were first performed in 1915, so you may well be able to find a library copy of a copyright-free edition.

    I assume the vespers were first published outside of the USA, so the pre-1964 rule (public domain unless copyright renewed 28 years after first publication) would be superceded by that of country of first publication. In most of the world outside of the US, copyright will expire between 50 and 70 years after the composer's death. R died in 1943, so that may be an issue.

    In addition to this, in the UK a music editor who creates a performing edition from disparate and incomplete sources can also claim copyright. I don't know the comparable position in the US.

    (Disclaimer: I am not an attorney, and the above is not legal advice.)


  • Again, assuming that Jeffrey's question regards the movement from the Vespers...
    1. I've already confirmed that I've held in my hand and sang such an arrangement 20 years ago. Perhaps it was this one available from Pepper, not that I think this answers all copyright concerns:
    4823324 SATB
    2. Also not an attorney, but as I am a composer/arranger, it would not at all occur to me to revisit the "crafty" concept of repositioning some words or syllables of the superimposed Latin text, or the imposition of markings, or the re-voicing of certain parts as a rightful claim to a new copyright. The farther one roams away from the autograph or an Uhrtext, the more suspicious of intent I get.
    3. On the other hand, when a composer such as Proulx retrofits text and adjusts the musical settings of other composers as he did with his MISSA OECUMENICA, I am not uncomfortable as the intent seems genuine due to its practical and artistic success in bringing the beauty of Russian homophony to the text of the Roman Ordinary. (Can we agree not to debate here whether there exists such a need?) And, as Proulx did not compose a Gloria for that Mass, my having done so, keeping the melodic and harmonic motifs and structures of Proulx's arrangement relatively in tact, but with newly composed portions to accomodate certain portions of the hymn that the original sources could not- I believe that constitutes a rightful claim to copyright. Simply put, both Proulx and I fill a perceived void that we believe has unique merit. So, regarding the AVE MARIA on CPDL, it seems that someone needs to arbitrate to what degree that arrangement artistically supercedes the merit of earlier editions still under copyright protection. Was there a real deficiency that needed a more informed or compositionally sound remediation? Or is this, basically, a mere re-quotation with a few aspects re-arranged (pardon the puns.)
    4. The very real fact that many respected composer/arrangers are constantly re-packaging their own works and those of the giants (how many "new" versions of PASSION CHORALE can be justifiably be added to Lenten "cantatas" offered in Pepper's Walmartian catalogue?) denigrates the authentic, scholarly work of people like Mike because the average parish choir director generally will opt for such "versions" simply out of convenience. And now that CPDL's catalogue has burgeoned (sp?) and become the go-to alternative to spending big bucks for the inflated cost of modern octavos and major works, that easy, convenient decision to "go there" is attractive in extremis. And any veteran of CPDL knows that a significant percentage of these arrangements are faulty due to myriad reasons.
    5. I cannot claim to know if CPDL has staff assigned to filter through these concerns as the contributions flow in to them. But, if not, perhaps it's time that they have someone akin to Gary Penkala's efforts at CanticaNova.
    Pax and out,
  • Copyright is pretty complicated stuff, but here are a few things I'm sure about to offer:

    First, if you make a slight change to a copyrighted arrangement of a piece, that doesn't free you from the previous editor's/arranger's copyright. In the end, you absolutely MUST go back to a public domain score and work from there.

    Second, IanW is not quite right -- in the case of a new arrangement or edition of a score, the copyright clock begins ticking from the death of the *arranger*, not the composer. If I go and edit a new edition of Bach's works, it would be under copyright until long after I die -- it would not immediately be in the public domain simply because Bach died so long ago.

    Even changing a tiny little thing (like the adding a tenuto example) is not necessary to have copyright kick in -- merely editing and publishing the score secures a copyright on that editing work. So again, you really have to go back to a public domain score.

    I've sung the Rachmaninov Ave Maria before, and heard the original Bogoroditse. However, I don't know off the top of my head whether the music is the same, or whether it had to be adapted for the Latin words. If the music is the same, just check a public domain score from the library, revert whatever slight changes were made to the original in your Finale score, and you're fine. But if the Slavonic text is fitted to somewhat different music, you'll have to do the whole work of adapting the Latin text to the original music all over again, in a different way than the arrangers of the score you have did.

    I hope that's clear -- this is frustrating stuff. (Which should be a lesson to everyone -- release your liturgical work into the public domain, under Creative Commons licenses, or at least voluntarily release your copyright after 20 or 30 years or so. It is scandalous that so much church music, liturgical text, etc., is locked up in copyrights and cannot be adapted.)
  • Your summing lesson is precisely right! Here am I sitting on this wonderful piece of music that I want to upload so you can have it too, but I'm uncertain. We know what Sergei would want!
  • Skitalets,
    As mentioned, I've sung the Latin version, and most recently performed/directed the original Russian with my H.S. Choir in 05 for Bill Hall and Paul Salamunovich at the Chapman U. Choir Fest as well. The music is not altered to accomodate the Latin at all, at least in the version I remember singing.
    I concur with your advice.
    Jeffrey, have my posts been unintelligent and not civil? In my comments I did not at all mean to disparage your chorister's arrangement or integrity. My apologies if that appeared to be the case.
  • no, no your posts are fabulous. The admin just put that in there as a good general rule not directed at anyone in particular (except maybe me).
  • Thanks. Phew. People, after encountering "blustery" Charles, sometimes think that's all there is! Ask Mike!
  • Charles --

    Thanks for clarifying about the music. I think it's been about seven years since I sang the version with Latin text and maybe six since I heard the original Bogoroditse in Russia. So I wasn't at all sure whether the music had been adapted for Latin. Glad to hear that the two scores are the same.

    (BTW, the original text is in Church Slavonic, not Russian. CS is the liturgical language of the Russian Orthodox -- and a beautiful language, if I might say so.)
  • I recline, supine, corrected, dear Skitalets. When I went over the diction issues with our symphony conductor's wife, a native Russian, she didn't mention the Church Slavonic difference. Of course, we were also consumming discreet quantities of Stoli at the time! I really should have known better, as I've met Dr. Morosan (sp?) a number of times at ACDA conventions, and hung out online with J. Michael Thompson a lot, and never made the clear distinction. Me bad.
    Shamefully, I must admit that I framed Maestro Salamunovich's commentary on my kids' performance of the Rachmaninov on my office wall; they done good that day (when four other choirs also performed it as well, yikes!) I regard it as the most precious "award" we've ever received.
  • JDE
    Posts: 586
    In order to perform this piece with the superimposed (and not entirely accurate) Latin text, some rhythmic modifications and compromises are needed. The adjustments in themselves might constitute sufficient "arranging" to justify copyright; however, if you want to do something original, just translate the Slavonic text rather than clamping a western-rite prayer onto it.

    Bogoroditse devo, raduisya; Blagodatnaya Mariya, Bog s Toboyu. Blagoslovienna Ty v zhenakh i blagoslovien plod khreva Tvoyego yako Spasa rodila yesi dush nashikh.

    Mother of God, rejoice. Blessed Mary, God is with Thee; Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb because you bore the Saviour of our souls.

    It's like a cross between the Regina Coeli and the Ave Maria. Of course the western ear wants a prayer it already knows, so I understand the desire to make it one or the other, but there really shouldn't be a problem with singing it in some sort of translation.
  • Yurodivi --

    Bless you for posting that. I studied Old Church Slavonic for longer than I care to admit, lived in Russia, went to Orthodox churches, and I'm ordained (not in the Roman church), and I never realized the Bogoroditse devo was not identical with the Ave maria! I had never bothered to really listen to the text as it was sung, I guess.

    Blessings and a holy Lent...
  • Mark P.
    Posts: 248
    I read many years ago (at least 35) that Rachmaninov himself sanctioned the Latin text. I believe it was in a journal devoted to ecclesastical art, which was published from the 1930s through 1950s.
  • JDE
    Posts: 586
    Skitalets --

    the only Russian Orthodox church I have ever set foot in was the Monastery of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The palestinian guard only let me in because I spoke russian to him.

    The singing left a lot to be desired, but I didn't care. I was ecstatic just to be there. And I had a year of Slavonic in grad school, but did poorly. Slavic languages lost me at the numerous shades of perfective/imperfective aspect, mainly because I was too lazy to become perfective.

    Mark P, I was totally unaware of that fact. It doesn't surprise me that much, though, because I think he already knew he was going to live out his life without ever seeing Russia again. I still like the Slavonic text, but think a faithful translation (into English) would also be good for a choir that didn't have the time to learn the Slavonic text.

    Incidentally, the year i was in Jerusalem, I stood at Mary's Grotto and listened while a visiting college choir sang this piece. It was awe-inspiring. It brought tears to my eyes. Truly an inspired piece of music . . . regardless of Rachmaninoff's personal piety (or lack thereof).